If all goes as planned in Tampa Bay over the next 3-4 years, Blaine Gabbert will never start a game for the Bucs. That might sound harsh, but it’s simply the truth. Tom Brady is the obvious temporary solution, and the Bucs clearly hope that Kyle Trask is the long-term one. You don’t draft a second round quarterback without the expectation that he could someday be your starter.
But that day hasn’t arrived just yet, which puts Gabbert in the driver’s seat for the backup quarterback spot behind Brady. The almost 44-year old hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2008, three years before Gabbert even entered the league, which brings us back to Gabbert’s absence from the field being ideal for Tampa Bay. But GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians still swear by the veteran signal caller, with Arians calling Gabbert “the most underrated played in the league” on the Pewter Report Podcast.
Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
That’s probably a stretch, but nearly every practice Gabbert conjures a reminder of what he could have become. The former first rounder ripped a tight window post route throw to Tanner Hudson near the beginning of practice, drawing praise from the sideline. A few plays later Gabbert layered in an excellent touch throw to Hudson on an over route for a big gain. The real buzz generator was a perfectly placed out route to Mike Evans, dropping the ball over the out-stretched arm of Jason Pierre-Paul in coverage.
It was a perfect display of everything Gabbert offers, including the ability to make high degree of difficulty throws look easy. The ball just looks pretty coming out of his hand, and there is no denying his arm strength.
But then the struggles with Gabbert arise as they always have, plaguing him throughout his career. After several “wow” throws, there’s back-to-back dropped interceptions from Jamel Dean, one that would have been a pick-6 in a game. A couple throws to out-breaking routes forced receivers into adjustments, and a sack was taken when Gabbert didn’t find his checkdown quickly enough. Accuracy and decision-making, those old enemies, rearing their ugly head again.
Those are the kind of struggles Trask is hoping to avoid, even if he isn’t above them yet. Wednesday was a reminder of how far Trask still has to go, but also an assurance of the talent he possesses already. There were good throws, including a number of touchdown passes in red zone period. Trask did a great job layering the ball over defenders to find receivers in the back of the end zone for scores.
In the same session Trask had several near interceptions on late throws. This came moments after Nate Brooks picked him off in the session prior. Trask also held the ball too long on a number of occasion, illustrating a process that must be a lot quicker before he’s ready for NFL action.
The good news? Gabbert has improved since joining the Bucs and so will Trask. A marvelous coaching staff will help sharpen details, and then it will be up to Trask how much time he’s willing to put in. During the first special teams break of practice, Trask grabbed an assistant coach and started working through throwing drills by himself. It was an encouraging sign that the young quarterback wasn’t satisfied with his up-and-down performance. Only time will tell if he’s able to make the strides necessary to avoid the rollercoaster Gabbert has spent most of his career on.
Bucs Mini-Camp Notes And Observations
Curtis Riley – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• It was shaping up to be a memorable day for S Curtis Riley, until an injury knocked the veteran safety from practice. Riley, a five-year veteran who earned a roster spot as a tryout player, was moved over to the starters/key backups field on Wednesday. Playing free safety next to Javon Hagan, Riley skied for a leaping, twisting interception of Tom Brady in the back of the end zone on a jump ball intended for WR Chris Godwin. The defense roared their approval.
Two plays later, TE Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown with LB Kevin Minter draped all over him and Riley arriving late to contest the throw. The trio tumbled out of the back of the end zone, and Riley came up favoring his right foot. He immediately limped off and was carted to the training room a few moments later.
• WR Jaelon Darden did return to practice, but in a limited capacity. After being held out of Tuesday’s practice with a hamstring tweak, Darden participated in the individual drills at the beginning of practice before calling it a day. Arians said after practice that was the plan for Darden going into the day.
• We’ll talk more about Joe Tryon on Wednesday’s Pewter Report Podcast, but he impressed today. It’s hard to get a great feel for him as a pass rusher just yet, but Tryon did forklift Brad Seaton on his way to the quarterback on one pass rush rep. He’s moved extremely well in coverage over the past two days, but I haven’t seen anyone target his area of the field.
Bucs ILB Kevin Minter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• The Bucs defense asserted themselves well against the first-team offense during red zone drills, especially early on. On the first play of the red zone period, Winfield Jr. knocked away a pass from Evans in the end zone. The unit then forced two underneath completions short of the goal line, before Minter knocked away a pass in the end zone for Hudson. Then Riley intercepted Brady, and the defense went nuts.
Brady responded with a touchdown to Evans on the next play, then threaded the needle to Gronkowski on the play Riley was injured. The Bucs quarterback quickly found Gronkowski underneath for a touchdown with Minter draped over his back, placing the ball low-and-away where only the big tight end could snag it. Next Brady dropped a touchdown to Cam Brate over Lavonte David, and suddenly the offense was rolling.
Carlton Davis responded with an excellent pass breakup on the next play. Through two days of practice, I haven’t seen Davis give up a thing in man coverage. Brady and Brate hooked up twice more for touchdowns, before a throwaway and a catch out-of-bounds ended the session
• Great day for Scotty Miller. He made a smooth one-handed grab on an out-route throw that was a little behind him early in practice, twisting around to snare the ball out of the air. Toward the end of practice Miller made what sounded like a highlight reel touchdown catch deep down the left sideline from Brady. Unfortunately the media’s vantage point was blocked, but the eruption on the Bucs sideline offered the impression that Miller made a spectacular grab. Brady ran down the field to congratulate the receiver after the play.
• Brady hit Evans deep for a touchdown down the same sideline, after the big receiver beat a stumbling Jamel Dean. Gabbert responded with a deep dime of his own, dropping in a beauty to Cyril Grayson for a long score. Grayson beat rookie Chris Wilcox on the play.
Bucs C Ryan Jensen and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• Couple off-target snaps from Ryan Jensen today. Arians said after practice that Jensen is a “sweat-er”, so keeping his hands dry is critical.
• New tight end Jerrell Adams had quite a day working in the red zone on the second field with the Bucs back-ups. Adams is a big target – 6-foot-6, 254 pounds – just like general manager Jason Licht likes his tight ends. Of the six tight ends on Tampa Bay’s roster, none are shorter than 6-foot-5.
Adams caught three red zone touchdowns from rookie quarterback Kyle Trask, including one where he had to go down low to make a diving catch. By comparison, Codey McElroy, the other tight end working on the second field, only had one score. McElroy also dropped a couple passes for the second day in a row.
• It was interesting to see the shuffling along the line of scrimmage with the offensive linemen reserves on the second field. Robert Hainsey and Donnell Stanley were getting reps at center. Hainsey had a bad snap on his first rep, which was scooped up by outside linebacker Quinton Bell, but otherwise looked solid. The rookie lineman also took reps at guard, but looked more comfortable at center. Hainsey’s quick first step is as good as advertised.
• Undrafted free agent guard Sadarius Hutcherson is a big man. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, which would make him the biggest guard on the team and he looks like it. Massive upper body, massive lower body and it’s easy to tell he’s a people-mover even without pads on. He’s got a powerful first step that can move the line of scrimmage. He’s definitely one to watch when the pads come on in training camp.
The Bucs likely won’t re-sign starting right guard Alex Cappa, who is a free agent in 2022, due to cost. Will Aaron Stinnie be Cappa’s replacement? Or will it be a lesser known player like Hutchinson or Nick Leverett, an undrafted free agent from a year ago who can play guard and tackle?
New Buccaneers Raven Greene – Photo by: USA Today
•New Bucs safety Raven Greene and linebacker Joe Jones have made quite an impression with their size in mini-camp. Greene is listed at 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, but is absolutely ripped and looks like he’s 210 pounds. Javon Hagan, who is listed at 6-foot, 215 pounds, is technically the biggest safety on the roster, but he doesn’t look as big as Greene does. Greene has broken up an end zone pass each of the past two day. He’s also more one of the louder players among the less experienced Bucs.
Jones is listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds and is easily the thickest linebacker on the team through the midsection and torso area. Devin White is similar-sized, but more lean.
• O.J. Howard still isn’t practicing, but he was down on the field today. In between sessions, Brady and Howard chatted and threw the ball back-and-forth together. The rapport remains.
• Random interior defensive line moment of the day: Rakeem Nunez-Roches blowing up Giovani Bernard in the hole during an early run period. Of course, Nacho proceeded to talk trash for the next 30 seconds at least. It’s great to be back.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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